Understanding increases freedom and freedom brings choice. The path doesn’t become straighter and more straightforward, but more windy with forks begging choices – becoming, in a word, interesting. Of course, this may not be what you want to hear:
‘But most of the turns, we don’t even see. We’ve trained ourselves to ignore them […] a choice isn’t often easy. In fact, the best ones rarely are.
But we can still choose to make one.’*
We’d probably prefer to drive across the thresholds of possibility, or be carried across by someone else or fly over them, something painless. But we need to walk through them; exhausted at times, the pace of understanding and freedom and choice is achieved at the speed of “walking” – something available to just about everyone from a very early age. We begin and then we continue with small steps:
‘Crucially, starting small is the hallmark of youthful days. When you are young, you cannot start things in a big way. Whatever you do, it does not matter much to the world. You need to start small. And what you have in abundance is open-mindedness and curiosity, the great kick-starters devoted to one’s cause.’**
Slowness allows information to become knowledge and to turn into understanding and eventually become wisdom. Wisdom is an embodiment of what we are understanding, when it seeps into the entirety of our lives, as Jonah Lehrer points out:
‘We do not have a body, we are a body. Although our feelings feel immaterial, they actually begin in the flesh.’^
Freedom involves noticing what our bodies are telling us.
This slow journey from understanding to wisdom creates or uncovers choice. Slowness may look totally wasteful to those convinced that the productive life is the faster life, but as Albert Einstein shared from his own experience:
‘Creativity is the product of “wasted” time.”^^
Ken Mogi, quoted above concerning taking small steps, writes about how craftswomen and men are honoured in Japan:
‘Often their lives are regarded as the embodiment of ikigai – lives devoted too creating just one thing properly, however small.’**
There’s something about his description that feels slow, something about the pursuit of their craft, about making something properly. Properly suggests a journey. Perhaps this is why I found myself journalling a year ago:
Do something small today, do it again tomorrow and the day after, and something takes shape. It’s not techniques but a story […]. I think my slow journey is about who I am becoming over a lifetime. […] the slowness is me. I now see I can become, I can choose.
Rebecca Solnit adds to this sense of becoming through slow journeying when she comments on the walking of William Wordsworth:
‘For Wordsworth, walking was a mode not of travelling but of being.’*^
And Henry David Thoreau sees those inheriting the family business or farm, in a different way, as the tethered or disadvantaged, whereas:
‘The portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it about enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.’^*
Perhaps we can take this encouragement to have a starting from scratch mentality, taking nothing for granted. Thoreau continues:
‘The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by he most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another so tenderly.’^*
There is more to your life and mine when we come to it slowly.
(*From Seth Godin’s blog Degrees of freedom.)
(**From Ken Mogi’s The Little Book of Ikigai.)
(^From Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.)
(^^Albert Einstein, quoted in Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber’s The Slow Professor.)
(*^From Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust.)
(^*From Henry David Thoreau’s Where I Lived, and What I Lived For.)